Are MBAs Under Employed?


The summer internship experiences of my classmates fall into two main buckets. The first bucket loved their internships, were given an offer to return and have already accepted the offer. Kinda boring so let’s move on. 🙂

For those that didn’t enjoy their internship experience, they usually had a bad boss, had too much work, or were bored. I found the ‘boredom’ reason to be quite interesting so I probed further, and it seems to me that MBA boredom roughly translates into:

  • Lacking adequate intellectual stimulation on the job.
  • Lacking the opportunity to drive high profile projects that ‘move the needle’ and bring significant change to an organization (all that good stuff we read in cases! 🙂 ).
  • Lacking an overcrowded schedule that needs ninja prioritization and time management skills to coordinate.

Which brings us to the question: are MBAs under employed over the summer? Yes! but with good reason:

1. It’s not Business School: After spending 9 months managing an insane schedule, working with incredibly smart people and tackling C-level problems (through cases), the crazy business school pace really becomes our pace! Apart from banking, consulting and maybe startups, most internships are unable to match the speed and variety of a top tier MBA experience. However, I do believe that individuals can upgrade their job pace by raising their hand and taking on more. It’s really a win-win situation as you get to work at your ‘normal’ pace, and you may even get recognized for stepping up!

2. It’s not your Old Job: Our bschool application essays are filled with stories of leadership; how we led cross-functional teams to deliver on high-profile initiatives for our employer. We’ve done this before, so why shouldn’t we get to do it again over the summer? One word: trust. Those high profile projects weren’t given to you on your first day on the job right? You were given something small at first, and when you did that well, you were given more. I think the same rules apply during the summer, even though it’s frustrating for MBAs with years of work experience under their belts, eager to apply the new stuff they’ve learnt on real world problems. Notwithstanding, I think it’s fair that most managers are unwilling to bet the company on a new hire, even if he/she has a fancy MBA.

3. It’s really an interview: At the end of the day, the summer internship is really be a drawn out interview. A potential employer is able to get a good feel for what it’ll be like to have you as an employee, and you are able to get a sense of what it’ll be like to work there full time. If things work out on both sides, you get the gig, and the opportunity to build the credibility and trust that’s needed to bag those fast-paced and high profile projects!

That’s what I think. What do you think?

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